DIFFERENT TALES TRACE RAPA NUI’S DISCOVERY: LEGEND CREDITS MANGAREVAN

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By Bob Krauss

MANGAREVA (September 21, 1999 – The Honolulu Advertiser)---The voyaging legends tell confused stories of epic expeditions. But they agree on one thing.

Voyaging into the sun and wind to far-off Rapa Nui is difficult. Some voyagers were never heard of again.

The legends disagree on who discovered Rapa Nui. The people believe their ancestor was Hotumatua, who dreamed of an island and sailed away to find it.

Nobody is sure where he sailed from. Was it the Marquesas Islands? Was it from Mangareva?

The teller of legends on this island is Bartelemi Teakarotu, 53, descendant of the last taura (kahuna), Matua, before the native religion was condemned.

Teakarotu’s grandmother, Tua Atakiore, told the stories to Maori anthropologist Peter Buck in 1934 when he researched Mangareva.

In his story, the discoverer of Rapa Nui is a Mangarevan navigator, Anoamatua, and the name he gave to Easter Island is Matakirarangi.

Here is the legend as told to me by Teakarotu while Hieva Keck translated:

Anoamatua sailed from Mangareva in a very large canoe with more than 100 people on board. They stopped first at two motus (tiny uninhabited islands). Anoamatua named them both Puapuamake’e.

The canoe sailed on to Pitcairn, where Anoamatua left one of his four wives (he had 22 children).

Voyaging on, the expedition encountered cold weather, colder and colder until they came to Cape Horn. Here the people decided they were in the wrong place so they turned the canoe and sailed north following the stars.

They came to Rapa Nui, which was uninhabited. Two sons with their families remained while the canoe sailed back to Mangareva. They gave the island several names, including Matakitarangi.

Peter Buck in "Vikings of the Sunrise" says he does not think Matakitarangi is Rapa Nui because the legend tells that the Mangarevans introduced breadfruit, which is not found on Easter Island.

He explains in his ethnology that a Frenchman first recorded the tale of Anoamatua. The Frenchman mistranslated a place name that came out "Cape Horn." The mistake has come down in the telling of Mangarevan legends.

Yet there is a traditional dance on Mangareva about the voyage of Anoamatua indicating that the legend is firmly embedded in Mangarevan culture.

What the legend also indicates is that epic voyages went out from Mangareva, cruising vast stretches of the Pacific, and that the Polynesians displayed superb survival skills at sea before they found a habitable island.

Another dance on Mangareva describes the voyages of a warrior named Po’atuto who sailed for Rapa Nui and was never heard of again.

The story of the discovery of Rapa Nui is described by Peter Buck: "King Hotu-matua dwelt in the land of Marae-renga (nobody knows where it was) and he dreamed of an island with a beautiful beach that lay over the eastern horizon.

"He sent men on a canoe named Oraora-miro to locate a beach on his dream island.

"He followed in their wake in his great double canoe, 90 feet long and 6 feet deep. One hull bore the name Oteka and the other Oua. The king was accompanied by the master craftsmen, Tu-koihu, in another canoe.

"After many days’ sail, the two vessels sighted an island that Hotu-matua knew to be the island of his dreams."

Hokule‘a navigator Nainoa Thompson said the Hawaiian canoe and that of Hotu-matua are the same in one way: "Hotu-matua dreamed of an island and sailed to it. Maybe he found Rapa Nui because he knew it was there. We also know the island is there."

But it is still a dream. The mathematical probabilities of finding it are slim. "This will teach us deeper meanings of Polynesian voyaging," Thompson said.

FAST FACTS

* Hokule‘a is in Mangareva waiting for favorable weather before it leaves on the third leg of its voyage, to Rapa Nui.

* Hokule‘a left Hilo on June 15. This third leg of the voyage will complete the Polynesian triangle bounded to the north by Hawai’i, to the south by New Zealand and to the east by Rapa Nui.

* Hokule‘a is a wood and fiberglass replica of canoes used by Polynesians to settle the Pacific about 2,000 years ago.

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